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What is Spinal Trauma?

Spinal trauma can be broken down into events such as car accidents, direct injury, bites, gunshot wounds and multiple medical conditions. Depending on where in your dog’s spine he is injured, you may see different signs and symptoms. Your dog may become incontinent, lose his ability to walk, and experience great pain.

Due to the largely varying nature of the symptoms your dog may experience, his spinal injury could mimic other injuries or conditions. It will be important to bring your dog to his veterinarian to provide relief and to promptly diagnose the problem.

Spinal trauma in dogs is defined as any injury to a dog’s spinal cord that results in ongoing injury and issues. These injuries account for up to 2% of all injuries of dogs brought in to their veterinarian.

Spinal Trauma Average Cost

From 531 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $10,000

Average Cost

$6,000

Symptoms of Spinal Trauma in Dogs

Symptoms may vary in your dog depending on the type of injury and what caused it. 

  • Acute onset – You will most likely notice symptoms come on quickly and suddenly after an injury or trauma
  • Loss of function – Your dog may lose some if not all function of his legs or lower half of the body
  • Ataxia – There may be a loss of coordination in your dog’s limbs and this may give him an unsteady walk
  • Pain – Your dog may begin to experience pain in his neck, back, and limbs due to the spinal injury 

Types

Types of spinal trauma injuries are broken down into 3 broad categories.

  • Intervertebral disk disease (aging disks that harden and cause pain, discomfort or paralysis) 
  • Trauma (car accident, gunshots, falls, bite wounds)
  • Blood supply being blocked to his spinal cord
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Causes of Spinal Trauma in Dogs

The causes of your dog’s spinal trauma will be either medical or accident induced. The causes will reflect the type of spinal cord injury.

Car accident – In the event your dog is hit by a car he may experience an injury to his spine that could result in partial or complete paralysis, pain, loss of coordination and more

Gun shots – In the event your dog is the victim of a gunshot wound, he may suffer injuries to his spinal cord resulting in pain, neurological deficits and other issues

Bite wounds – Depending on how severe the bite is and where it is on his spinal cord, your dog may experience pain, paralysis or long term nerve damage among other injuries

IVDD – Due to old age (although young dogs can be affected too) and hereditary issues your dog may develop compression of his spine resulting in pain, discomfort, and loss of use of his limbs; this condition has been found to be common in Dachshunds, Shih Tzus and other long-backed breeds. 

Restriction of blood flow to spinal cord – More likely to impact large breeds, however miniature Schnauzers have a high rate as well; happens when blood flow is constricted to the spinal cord by obstruction or other means of prevention of flow. An embolism may be to blame.

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Diagnosis of Spinal Trauma in Dogs

Diagnosing a spinal cord injury will need to be done by a veterinarian as the injury will most likely not be one that can be seen by the naked eye. Your veterinarian will want to perform a physical exam and her primary goal will be to stabilize your dog. 

Once he is stable, your veterinarian will need a full history and any indication of injury, trauma, or fall that could be causing his symptoms and your concerns. Your veterinarian will want to rule out other possible disorders or underlying causes of his symptoms through testing.

Some of those tests may include X-rays, CT scans and MRIs to determine where the damage is and how severe it is. These tests are typically done while your dog is under anesthesia to minimise pain and so as not to injure him any further.

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Treatment of Spinal Trauma in Dogs

Treatment will be largely dependent on the type of injury your dog is experiencing. If the injury is only a partial cord injury, the prognosis is better. When the cord injury is more severe, the prognosis is worse.This is because when your dog’s spinal cord is only partially injured, the healthy nerves can pick up the slack of the lost nerve endings versus a complete severance where there are no nerves left intact. A lack of deep pain sensation is negative prognostic factor.

Surgery may be necessary to release pressure on your dog’s spinal cord, and to treat any open wounds or other secondary injuries. Medication management is rare and typically consists of cage rest and steroids to help with inflammation as needed. One medication used is PEG, which if used within 72 hours of the injury, can prevent nerves from breaking completely and allow the spinal cord to heal better. 

Depending on the severity of your dog’s injury he may begin to recover within a few days to weeks after initial diagnosis. However, if your dog loses his continence ability, that may not return and if he has complete paralysis he may not regain function in his limbs.

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Recovery of Spinal Trauma in Dogs

If your dog is no longer able to perform normal bodily functions such as urination or defecation on his own, that will result in a lifelong change for him and you both. If his ability to walk or be mobile is taken away that can also change his lifestyle and may result in changes to his environment and mobility means. In some cases, euthanasia must be considered.

Follow up appointments will be necessary after any surgery as directed by your veterinarian and to check for any further issues or progress of his symptoms. Your dog can begin to get better within a few weeks once the underlying and immediate cause are treated.

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Spinal Trauma Average Cost

From 531 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $10,000

Average Cost

$6,000

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Spinal Trauma Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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pitbull mix

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13 weeks

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Unknown severity

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5 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Difficulty Walking, Whimpering, Loss Of Bowel Control

Dog suddenly laid down and wouldn't get up. Was whimpering and moaning and lost control of his bowel once. Seems to be getting slightly better but won't stand up or move

Dec. 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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5 Recommendations

I'm sorry to hear this. It sounds as if your dog may have had a seizure. Do check if there are any toxins they may have eaten (such as human medicine, a cigarette butt, houseplant, cleaning products etc). You should take your puppy to the vet right away for a check over. They will likely run some tests such as a blood test and may give some anti seizure medicine.

Dec. 24, 2020

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Pitbull mix

dog-age-icon

Six Years

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Unknown severity

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10 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Arch Back, Limping With Front Right Paw And Knuckling On His Left Back Paw, Has Trouble Standing From Lying Down, Whines When He Tries To Lay Down

I want to know why he is limping because he started limping suddenly with his right front paw but his back injury has kind of been slowly getting worse for the last week

Aug. 7, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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10 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It is difficult to say without seeing him, but from your description, it sounds like he may have a spinal injury or a disc problem, or a pinched nerve. Those can cause different legs to be painful or not useful. If he is whining, he is probably in pain, and this sounds like something that should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. They will be able to examine him, assess neurologic function, and get medications for him so that he is more comfortable and can have use of those limbs. I hope that all goes well for him.

Aug. 7, 2020

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Spinal Trauma Average Cost

From 531 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $10,000

Average Cost

$6,000

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